The raising of kids. Self-improvement. An exercise regimen. The writer’s craft. Doesn’t matter what it is.
Commitment — making a fixed decision toward achievement and allowing no other option — is the #1 factor in whether or not we make good things happen. Or really, whether things happen at all.
I was floundering. After my participation in 2014’s National Novel Writing Challenge (that I didn’t “win” but during which I wrote a lot), I vacillated between whether I should continue down the path of novel writing, or try to focus more on freelance work and the contribution of my personal essays to various websites and publications.
I have a desire and aptitude for both, my reasons for choosing one or the other varying. (Though balancing them together is not an option, not while working full-time and being an involved mom.) But because I was open to both, and couldn’t make a decision about which should be my priority, I was spinning my wheels and getting nowhere. Doing nothing, as far as writing goes.
So then I expressed the lack of direction to my writing group. Put my thoughts out on the table, so I could get feedback, and view it from all sides. Really take a good look and make an informed, progressive decision.
It was hitting on the realization together — thank you, V.K.! — that it all comes down to commitment that cleared things up for me. I had to choose something, plain and simple. And then I had to decide that I would be committed to that choice, even on the days I don’t want to be, or when it’s really, really hard.
That’s it. Truly.
It was a powerful epiphany for me, and so I committed. I picked that I will continue down the path of novel writing, which led to an instant rejuvenation for my current WIP. Decisions regarding the manuscript and the integrity of the story asserted themselves. My verve to actually sit down and write returned.
I’ve written 5,000 new words toward my novel in the last two weeks, and the progress feels awesome. It feels solid and justified.
But really, it’s the commitment. That feels awesome, too.
Back in high school, I had a crush on a guy. He was cute and funny and a year older than I was. He also had a girlfriend who went to a different school, which meant that as long as she was in the picture, he was off limits.
But I liked this guy and we became friends. Sure, there was some flirting. Mostly we hung around outside of classes and he let me store my books in his locker because my locker was way down at the other end of the school.
Storing my books in his locker was a great way to ensure I would constantly run into him between classes. It was a brilliant plan, one of the best catch-a-guy plans I ever devised. Unfortunately, he still had a girlfriend.
During those first two months of the school year, our friendship blossomed. In late October, with the Sadie Hawkins dance approaching – you know the one where the girl gets to ask the guy to the dance? – I wanted to ask him to be my date. But at fifteen, my experience with dating was minimal. Mostly the guys I had crushes on just wanted to be friends and the guys who had crushes on me … well, I just wanted to be their friend.
I kept hearing that he was still with this other girl, and even though I was pretty sure it was all over between them – all but the final “we’re done” – I kept finding excuses not to ask him to the dance. If you want to know the truth, I was chicken. I was scared of rejection and scared of looking like a fool and scared of losing his friendship.
I lost it anyway.
Deep down, I knew my locker guy liked me, a lot, and was waiting for me to ask him to the dance. Perhaps if he’d broken up with his other girlfriend, I might have been braver. Perhaps if my friends weren’t pressuring me to ask their boyfriends’ buddy to the dance instead, I might have gathered up my courage and made my move.
Instead, I asked the other guy, and the budding relationship between me and my locker guy disintegrated until I finally gave up hope and moved back to my own locker. Other than the occasional nod as we passed in the hallway, he spent the rest of high school ignoring me.
He came to the dance alone, and I’m sure he expected me to be solo, too. Immediately after the dance, he changed. Even back then, I wondered if it was my fault. He dropped his girlfriend and began to hang around with a crowd of kids heavy into booze and drugs, and from what I could tell, spent most of his days high or drunk. Years later, I ran into him and we had a polite conversation. He’d never married, lived alone, and worked as an electrician in the oilfield industry.
Shortly afterward, I saw his obituary in the paper. He’d died, either from the drugs or alcohol, or a combination of the two. I still think of him sometimes and wonder if his life would’ve been different if I’d been brave enough to ask him to the Sadie Hawkins dance. Or if his life was predestined to end up as it did and had I dated him, would I have been caught up in the murky mess of his life?
Do you ever look back and wonder if your actions could’ve made a difference in someone’s life? Or do you think we’re predestined to live our life a certain way?